Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

May 30, 2013

Get road repair money where it belongs

The Andover Townsman

---- — Be careful, drivers. If your local streets seem bumpier than usual this summer and fall, you may have state government to thank.+

The Department of Public Works likes to spend the warmer months filling potholes, repaving winter-ravaged roads and rebuilding sidewalks. It relies on so-called Chapter 90 money from the state to help do so; work can’t begin until that cash is on its way from Beacon Hill.

For the second year in a row, however, that money is being held up as lawmakers haggle over other issues.

As the prime work months of April and May passed by, the local road and bridge spending got caught up in the larger debate between the Legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick over how best to address the state’s massive, chronic transportation woes. The price tag for that fix depends on which plan you prefer; in any case, we’re talking several hundred million dollars a year for the better part of a decade.

By comparison, the few hundred million dollars the state sets aside every year for local projects seems like pocket money. But while it may be small change on Beacon Hill, it’s big money locally to spend on roads, bridges, sidewalks and bike lanes. And it needs to be spent soon, before the prime work season ends.

The good news is that the House and the Senate have both agreed on spending $300 million in Chapter 90 money in the coming year, up from last year’s $200 million. The governor, after some hemming and hawing relating to the cool reaction to his call for new taxes and more spending, on Tuesday offered some hope when he filed a so-called terms bill, which sets a term of not more than 30 years for the $30 million bond.

Now it’s time to end the foot-dragging, enact and sign the bill and push through a companion borrowing bill to get the money to our local communities.